The Opportunity to Share Stories

I knew that I wanted to write when I was about 20 years old. I was working at the park as a recreation leader, and the kids and teenagers wanted to have a talent show. The staff wanted to do a skit about the challenges of being a staff member at the park. I remembered insisting that I write the script which I did. About 5 of us rehearsed the skit, and I think the story was about kids at the park being out of control and the recreation leaders having a meltdown as a result. We performed this skit on stage in front of the kids, and it was a really enjoyable time. When I heard the kids laughing, I realized this is something that I like to do.

I finished the initial draft of my first children’s story 15 years ago, but didn’t know how to publish it or even how to share the story. I didn’t have the drawing skills to illustrate my own photos, so I looked for help. After working but never finishing the project with a couple of artist friends, I shelved it for a few seasons.

Then the iPhone happened in 2007, and I got hooked on mobile photography. I realized that I could illustrate my stories with photography. The funky-filtered, over-processed pictures that the photo purists criticize about are the images that I want to illustrate my stories. I get to be my own illustrator. How about that?

Today’s explosion of social media gives me the opportunity to share my writing to a much wider audience than I ever had before. Even if it’s just a handful of folks that ready my story and tap on the like or favorite or reshare button that is still a handful more than I ever had before that enjoyed a story or poem I created.

The Challenge of Twitter Poetry

How do you write a poem in 140 characters or less? Less than 140 characters because I usually tie the poem to one of my images: that cuts the space down to 117. Even with a link shorterner, like ow.ly, that still leaves me with only a skimpy offering of 95 characters to wax poetic. I can forget hashtags like #poetweet and #twaiku. Maybe not. I’ll give it my best go. I’ve already tried a few. Here’s one of my recent Twitter expressions. Never mind the title. Not enough characters for one.

Gloomy gray 

California day.

Children On Social Media

social media icons

Social Media and kids

Would you let your child freely interact with strangers? That question is the basis for my thoughts and opinions on children using social media. It is hard to have a simplistic grasp of the explosion of social media. We can share our lives via photo, video, sentences, and a song in an instant. We are interacting in ways that we couldn’t imagine years ago. Even my 75-year old low-tech dad is FaceBooking now. Times have changed. Social media has opened avenues of communication that allows the participant to access dozens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people. Where do our children fit in the social media picture that is increasingly becoming an integral part of our daily lives.
That brings me back to the first question. Would you let your children freely interact with strangers? The answer for my children is no. In public situations, when strangers approach my children, I make sure I redirect the interaction between me and the stranger. When I’m shopping, I don’t let my children leave my side to interact with people I don’t know. Why would I allow my children to do that on the internet?
Things to think about…
    • Predators are rampant on the internet. They are all over the internet in every social media platform: FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
    • Personal profiles can be easily be created to misrepresent the user. A predator wouldn’t typically identify himself as one on his profile. People aren’t who they say they are. As I type, I’m looking at a spam account on my Instagram. It’s a stock photo of a model. Who knows who the real person is behind the account? I don’t. Neither does your child.
    • Peer pressure to post things for shock value. We are a “like” hungry society. The more likes and reposts on a post, then the better. People pay money to buy Twitter followers. “Likes,” “Favorites,” “Repins,” and “Reposts,” are the fuel that make social media go. That pressure is on our children to fit in their digital world as well as their physical world. One easy way to get attention to internet activity is to promote sex and vulgarity. The pressure is on our children to promote the same things.
So when can my kid join in?
I’m going back to my theme. The permissions I allow my children to be in the physical world is similar to the interaction I would allow my children to have on the internet. If I allow my son to work at the local movie theater, where the bulk of his interaction is with people he doesn’t know, then yes, I would allow that in his digital world as well. With boundaries? Oh yes, and I will set them. Freedom without responsibilities and accountability is not freedom. The process is all about trust, and trust is earned, not given.
What is your involvement?
Parenting is active. Anytime, you don’t interact with your children or you don’t actively supervise your children’s activities, it is very likely that your children will go beyond the boundaries. Street signs remind me about the rules while I drive to keep me and others around me safe. Those road signs aren’t consistent on the internet. The parent must be guiding their children, and that includes setting limits on time, content, and interaction. I can and will tell my child, who can and cannot be his internet friends.
Our children need boundaries the same way a river needs banks. When there are banks, the river is a source of life. When the banks are gone the river becomes a flood. I believe in saying no with purpose. I believe that setting boundaries for your children will help them create boundaries for their own lives.